Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue
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Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue was a French regiment of colored troops (gens de couleur) that was founded on 12 March 1779. Though the regiment was for colored people, the officers were white, with the exception of Laurent François Lenoir, Marquis de Rouvray, who commanded the regiment.[Note 1] The regiment was disbanded in 1783.
Originally, the regiment was to consist of 10 companies of light infantry organized into two battalions, each company consisting of 79 men. It was open to all gens de couleur, not just free blacks of mixed race, but also slaves who were promised their freedom on their return if they joined. On 21 April 1779, the regiment received authorization for an expansion. Each of the companies would now number 100 gens de couleur, plus three white officers. The enlisted men comprised 88 fusiliers, two drummers, eight corporals, four sergeants, and one "fourrier". The regimental officers, all white, consisted of a colonel, a lieutenant-colonel, a battalion commandant, a major, and an aide-major.
Siege of Savannah
The regiment accompanied the Comte d'Estaing as part of the expeditionary force for service in the American Revolutionary War. While the unit was plagued by desertions still some 545 men participated in the Siege of Savannah. The white counterpart to the Chasseurs, the Grenadiers-Volontiers, nominally a battalion-sized unit originally and even more plagued by desertions, provided 156 men.
The expeditionary force under the command of d'Estaing and his lieutenant, Jean-Baptiste Bernard Vaublanc, left Cap-Français on 15 August 1779, and arrived on 8 September 1779, in Savannah, Georgia. After arriving they were tasked to help the American colonial rebels, who were intent on regaining control of the city which British forces under Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Campbell had captured in 1778. An official list of the units participating in the siege mentioned both the Chasseurs-Volontaires and the Grenadier-Volontiers, but mentioned that they were only to be used to dig trenches.
The British Army sortied from their defenses on 24 September before dawn to engage their French and American besiegers. The Chasseurs fought back and lost one man while seven others were wounded, along with Conte D'Estaing. The siege ended in failure on 9 October 1779.
The French did not disband the Chasseurs, but instead continued to use the unit. Some men accompanied d'Estaing and Rouvray to Versailles; these Chasseurs did not return to Saint-Domingue until 1780. The majority of the regiment then served in Saint-Domingue as garrison troops.
A company of 62 men accompanied the casualties from Savannah to Charleston and then participated in the defense of Charleston in spring 1780.
In 2007, a memorial sculpture was dedicated to the Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue in Savannah, Georgia.
Notes, citations, and references
- de Rouvray was a black marquis who served with the French in Canada in 1768 where he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. He died in 1798 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after many personal battles due to American disrespect for a black French marquis. He was listed in the "Dictionnaire des gens de couleur dans la France moderne" as a black man living in France.
- Lespinasse (1882) pp.166-7.
- Garrigus (2006), p.208.
- Garrigus (2006), p.210.
- "Haitian Monument Completed - WSAV: News, Weather, and Sports for Savannah, GA". WSAV. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
- Garrigus, J. (2006) Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue. (Springer). ISBN 9781403984432
- Lespinasse, Beauvais (1882) Histoire des affranchis de Saint-Domingue: Tome premier. (J. Kugelmann).
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